When Did the Realization “I Am an Author” Hit?

Author Pat Bertram (“More Deaths Than One” and “A Spark of Heavenly Fire”) wrote a post with this same title today. She’s been assisting her publisher, Second Wind, with projects while working on pre-publication publicity for “Daughter Am I” and on edits for “Light Bringer.” So today, the realization it: She feels like an author.

I left a comment on her post, saying that I felt more like a writer when I worked as a corporate communications director and a technical writer than I do now. Partly, that was because my work produced an income that made a difference to my family’s financial well being. Now, I can’t say that. On some days, I feel like writing is a very expensive hobby and I look at Pat Conroy who’s two years younger than I with another bestselling novel and I think, “there’s an author.” Most authors, though, remain obscure.

Many traditionally published books sell a thousand copies or less; most self-published books sell a hundred copies or less. The income produced is less than publicity costs. Hence, it becomes easy to say writing is a hobby–like having aquariums all over the house, a dozen stamp albums in the den, or a huge model train layout in the basement–because it uses up income while producing many interesting hours rather than paying the rent.

Yes, I am an author. Yes, I enjoy writing, planning novels, doing reviews, posting here on this web log, researching new project ideas, and keeping up with the profession. Yet, the reality of being an author is so much different than I expected when I looked ahead to my career when I was in high school. And, I think it’s probably a lot different than the public believes as well. For the public, if they’ve heard of you, you’re and author. If they haven’t, you’re not. The public is very blunt about whether one is or isn’t what he claims to be.

It comes down to self-satisfaction, then, being happy with what one is doing and feeling that the output, however obscure, is also what he is supposed to be doing. We all hope our books reach readers who will enjoy them and who might also derive value from them. But we’re seldom omniscient enough to know when and where that happens.

But we keep writing because–in our warped imagination–there’s no better way for us to spend our lives.

Malcolm

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6 thoughts on “When Did the Realization “I Am an Author” Hit?

  1. I always thought “author” was a name others gave you, “writer” was what one called themselves, but until today, I’d never called myself either one. But when a person spends most waking hours doing author-related activities, such as promotion and editing, it’s hard not to see that perhaps one really is an author. Give me time, though. I’ll go back to my normal, non-author self.

  2. As an outsider looking in, I find this whole thing a puzzling conundrum. If book sales are the measure of success, is the writing itself the critical element, or the marketing? From reading your stuff it resonates with me that if the right selection of people were exposed to it, (and I would guess that group is sizable) it would be a marketing success as well as a writing success.

    1. The issue boils down to exposure. BIG PUBLISHING decides certain books and authors might sell well, so they get major marketing dollars along with book salesmen who push the book. With luck, this turns into word-mouth buzz that grows like a snowball rolling down hill.

      Everyone else fights to be noticed in a very large Internet. Add to that, the fact that most readers, whether they buy genres or mainstream fiction, go first to the authors they know. So even when one has exposure, if the reader has not already heard of you, s/he probably won’t buy. Some will, of course. But most like the comfort of following the talk.

      Readers who will go into a bar or a restaurant and slap down a credit card for a $30 dinner with drinks, think book purchases of the same or lesser amounts to require deep thought. Suddenly, they’re complaining that an unknown author’s book is selling for more than Dan Brown’s famous book, so they quibble over the difference in price when similar differences in price on a menu cause hardly a ripple in their thinking.

      I appreciate your kind words while we’re waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with your wisdom. 🙂

      Malcolm

      1. I’ve been thinking about the dinner/book parallel myself. Three people recently told me they couldn’t afford my book, but one paid $20 for a lunch, (which could have paid for one of my books), someone else paid #35 for a dinner (which could have bought two), and a third paid $45 for a luncheon (which could have bought all three). I’m sure the food was good, but let’s be honest — it ends up in a septic tank or a sewer system. A book, however, gives more than an hour’s enjoyment, and it stays around . . . well, not forever, but for a very long time.

        1. I’ve never mentioned the dinner/lunch cost to anyone directly, just in random posts not directed at any particular person. I suppose, if somebody ever acted like I was hounding them (which doesn’t sound like me) about buying a book, I might blurt out, well, you didn’t mind dropping $50 for drinks last night. Otherwise, I haven’t wanted to lose friends.

          Malcolm

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